COVID construction issue delays reopening of Beaverbrook Art Gallery

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After the Beaverbrook Art Gallery closed in the winter of 2020 due to COVID-19, it has decided to remain closed to focus on much-needed renovations.

The plan was to reopen the gallery by the end of 2021, with a brand new facade, gift shop and gallery space.

November is here, but the renovated gallery is not ready.

And just like the initial closure during the lockdown, COVID-19 is to blame for the postponed reopening.

“The big hurdle has been COVID, not just here in Fredericton, but internationally,” said Tom Smart, CEO of the art gallery.

“It has slowed down supply chains and it’s making dominoes all the way back.”

Construction of the gallery has been underway since mid-2020 and will continue at least until spring 2022.

Beaverbrook Art Gallery General Manager Tom Smart took Fredericton Information Morning host Jeanne Armstrong on a tour of the construction work at the gallery. (Jeanne Armstrong / CBC)

Much of the current delay is due to the unavailability of a type of silicate used to make the glass that the gallery wants to use on the facade.

The glass would be clearer and avoid the greenish tint usually found in large windows, but finding a supplier was difficult.

“I heard they found the silicate, the windows are just about to be made and hopefully they will be installed at the start of the new year,” said Smart.

While the search for clear glass has been a major headache, the gallery has faced other COVID-related delays.

“Other delays may just be due to manpower, with some of the contractors being backed up by other work,” Smart said.

“Some scheduling issues, things have to happen in a certain order and we’re trying to juggle all the sequencing, materials, and manpower to make this site as secure as possible, but to keep the job going.”

Fully accessible

Smart said that one of the main reasons the gallery decided to do renovations was to make the gallery fully accessible to customers.

He said before that some areas were inaccessible to some people, but that won’t be a problem now.

“There is a series of ramps that take you into the building and up to the gallery level in a very smooth manner,” said Smart.

The new facade is a major change not only for the gallery, but also for the appearance of downtown Fredericton.

Dozens of columns make up the new facade.

12:27Beaverbrook tour of ongoing renovations

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is still under construction, with its reopening being postponed until next year. Host Jeanne Armstrong shows us around part of the building and we hear about what is delaying renovations. 12:27

Smart said the design was chosen because of its connection to Fredericton’s existing and historic architecture.

“The columns echo some of the architectural motifs that we see in the neighborhood,” said Smart.

“There are columns on the Legislative Assembly building. There are columns in the old town here, where you see on the porches and porticos there are a lot of columns and the columns are also visible in the former garrison area. “

Digital art

With the long-term closure, the gallery has also decided to take high-resolution photos of all of its works to digitize the collection.

Mike Doucet of the gallery is digitizing artwork that will be featured on the gallery’s new website. (Jeanne Armstrong / CBC)

These photos will be visible on the gallery’s new website.

“We wanted it to be completely accessible not only to Frederictonians, but to all of New Brunswick,” said Smart.

Soft opening

While the gallery’s work is not yet complete, its first new exhibition is slated to open in April 2022, with a focus on Quebec abstract painter Jean-Paul Riopelle.

“Construction will not be on the Harrison McCain pavilion, but we are considering another entrance via the education center and reconfiguration of the galleries so that we can accommodate this great show,” said Smart.

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